Colm Keaveney fears emails may have been hacked

Oireachtas issues statement detailing IT security systems used to protect material

Fianna Fáil’s Colm Keaveney’s query came in the wake of court proceedings taken by Denis O’Brien claiming that public relations company Red Flag had compiled a false and defamatory dossier about him. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Fianna Fáil’s Colm Keaveney’s query came in the wake of court proceedings taken by Denis O’Brien claiming that public relations company Red Flag had compiled a false and defamatory dossier about him. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

A Fianna Fáil TD’s fears that his emails may have been hacked have led to the Houses of the Oireachtas issuing a detailed statement about IT security.

It said it used a range of security systems to protect the confidentiality of material on the computers used by TDs and their staff.

The statement about the level of security was issued following a letter from Galway East TD Colm Keaveney to the head of the information and communications technology unit expressing fears his emails may have been hacked.

In his letter to the Oireachtas authorities, Mr Keaveney said: “Over the course of the last number of weeks, I have been given cause for concern as to the security of information stored on the Oireachtas servers, particularly in relation to the emails of both myself and my staff.”

Mr Keaveney asked when the “last security review of all IT systems” was carried out and if any weaknesses been identified and corrected.

He also asked about laptop and desktop security, even when computers were fully turned off and with all password protocols in place.

In response the Houses of the Oireachtas issued a statement saying several security systems and features were used to protect its ICT systems.

These included: authentication of devices attached to the Oireachtas ICT network; blockage of access to certain categories of websites; antivirus, anti-malware and anti-phishing software; multiple firewalls; and intrusion detection and prevention systems.

The statement added that the system also used anti-spam and quarantine features; encryption of all laptops, off-site desktop PCs and removable storage media and the enforcement of appropriate network and email password policies.

“In addition, the ICT Unit monitors traffic volumes and activity levels [without monitoring members’ data content] to ensure that adequate capacity is available, and to ensure that no data surge or mail storm damages Oireachtas systems.

“This includes email and internet activity. Security systems automatically monitor network activity to determine any unusual events that might pose a threat to the network. The service carries out regular system audits/vulnerability assessments, and ensures that security patches are applied as they become available from the appropriate sources,” said the statement.

Red Flag

Mr Keaveney’s query came in the wake of court proceedings taken by businessman Denis O’Brien claiming that public relations company Red Flag had compiled a false and defamatory dossier about him.

Most of the contents of the dossier are newspaper clippings but there are also other documents.

Mr O’Brien’s counsel Michael Cush said in court that the dossier contained a file called “Draft speech for Colm Keaveney TD”.

“It begs the question, who paid him to craft a speech to be delivered under privilege in the Dáil?” Mr Cush said in court.

In a letter to The Irish Times, Mr Keaveney strenuously denied he had received any outside assistance in compiling a Dáil speech that was highly critical of Mr O’Brien.

“I wish to state categorically that the speech I delivered in the Dáil was entirely composed by myself, with the assistance of the staff provided to me by the Houses of the Oireachtas. No third party influenced, or contributed to, the contents of that speech in any way, shape, or form,” he wrote.